Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween News Flash

Due to the psycho kinetic activity associated with All Hallows eve we have been able to arrange an exclusive interview with Colbert Coldwell and Benjiman Banker, through our medium Madame Bal Shat.

We are at Madame B.S.’s tent parlor surrounding the crystal ball, as she gazes intensely into what she describes as swirling mist, or the past friends and relatives network. Madame B.S. begins to murmur a chant and then tells us we can begin the interview. I must tell you we were certainly skeptical but when we saw the images of Mr. Coldwell and Mr. Banker we thought we might as well give it a try.

Well I may have been skeptical, but I am now a confirmed believer in B.S., er I mean Madame Bal Shat. The following is the resulting interview with the founders of Coldwell Banker.

Network News (NN): Good evening, we’d just like to thank you guys for taking the time to talk to us. Do you guys get Network News and what do you think of it?
CC: Very cool. Never miss it. Really hip. Totally cool.
BB: Got my first issue last week, had to go back and read all the previous issues.

NN: Thank you. So the company you founded is almost 100 years old, and is one of the largest real estate companies in the world. Any thoughts on that?
BB: I told Colby that the automobile would revolutionize the business. Gotta say I’m proud of what our little company has accomplished.
CC: I’m pumped about the party in San Francisco. I loved the Network News recommendations. We’ve even talked about Haunting the event but there’s a lot of regulatory hurdles to overcome.
NN: What do you guys see as pivotal in the future?
CC: Gotta put my money on traveling real estate companies that move from disaster to disaster.
BB: You’re nuts! Everybody knows that instant housing is going to be the thing. Everybody is going to live in these little boxes but when you get in you’ll think its another world. Really cool stuff.

NN: Whats been happening latetly with you guys?
BB: I’m managing Elvis on the road. I thought he was a bit extravagant in his day but he’s a really cool kid.
CC: I like recruiting the newcomers. We do all kinds of stuff, leisure activities, watch Survivor - my favorite was the Colbster, and stuff like that.

NN: Before I let you guys go, some people still think they can make bank deposits at Coldwell Banker...
CC: (laughing) Well it worked pretty good in the day to have people think that. My other choice for partner was Hershey Hearst. I thought CB worked better than CH, I also thought it was better to have people looking to make deposits than coming to us for their funeral arrangements.
BB: You were thinking of Hershel…You never told me that.

NN: Thanks guys and hopefully see you in San Francisco!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Antitrust Hearing on Competition in the Industry

Questions over competition within the real estate industry have prompted Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission officials to take action on a range of matters this year, including suing the National Association of Realtors trade group over its policies for sharing and displaying property information on the Internet and investigating state laws that effectively ban real estate rebates for consumers.

Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (in the US) held a workshop called "Competition Policy and the Real Estate Industry" in Washington. According to Inman News, the trade commission used an interesting parallel between the travel and real estate industries:

Airline ticket prices have generally dropped in price over the years, thanks to greater price competition in that industry. And it's no accident, said Michael A. Salinger, director of the Bureau of Economics for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

"Prices were particularly high on long distance routes," he said, though, "We deregulated prices and eliminated restrictions on entry and prices came down dramatically."

Salinger said that while some travelers may say that aspects of quality have dropped, such as the quality of food on some discount airlines, "economists who have looked at this have concluded that we are by far better off with the lower prices than we were with the higher service levels designed to attract the higher prices."

Industry leaders rebutted the charges, saying the real estate market is highly competitive, with many new people entering the field. They said average real estate commissions have dipped, to a bit above 5 percent nationally, because of new kinds of brokerage services and price negotiation.

More on this from the Washington Post

Overview of the workshop from the D.O.J. website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Google Sitemaps

There is a new tool from Google that you should be aware of if you are trying to naturally optimize your website for the search engines. (If all of that was Greek to you then talk to your webmaster or get one ;). It is called Google Sitemaps.

According to Google it "is an easy way for you to help improve your coverage in the Google index. It's a collaborative crawling system that enables you to communicate directly with Google to keep us informed of all your web pages, and when you make changes to these pages. "

Basically, instead of waiting for Google to "crawl" your site when you make changes, using Sitemaps you let Google know of any changes directly.

It's free, and my guess is if you don't start using it, your competition will, and you will fall behind.

More info:

Visit the Network News Archive to read the articles you've missed.

Cendant Splits Up

The owners of Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Coldwell Banker Commercial, ERA and Sootheby's International realty are splitting their company into four publicly independant traded parts.

The company will be split into Real Estate, Travel, Hospitality, and Car Rentals and the Cendant name will retire. This move is expected to increase shareholder value and should be of no consequence to day to day operations of the company.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Thanks Terrequity...Advanced Search Engine Marketing

Sara and I presented our new real estate course to Coldwell Banker Terrequity at the main office in North Toronto. "The Introduction to Advanced Real Estate Search Engine Marketing" was by all accounts very well received. We want to thank those participants who were there and provided their evaluations to us. We also want to thank everybody for the Link exchange which will only improve our chances to be searched and found by Google.

"This was very informative and useful"

"The best seminar I have attended which will have the most direct impact on the way I plan and do business"

"This was a terrific presentation - this is an essential tool that will only gain in importance in the years ahead"

Thanks again and we look forward to seeing everyone on the top of their search very soon.

For more information on educational opportunities for your office contact us through

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Image improvement

It seems that things are getting better for our kind at least in the states. I don't know where they do their polling but I suspect that the numbers may actually be a little better here in Canada.

Realtors are improving their image, according to the latest National Association of Realtors' annual survey that gauges public opinion.

The survey's composite image score of 19 beliefs, opinions and attitudes about Realtors rose from 56 percent in 2004 to 59 percent this year – up 11 points since 2002, the group announced today. The survey also found that the likelihood of real estate consumers to use a Realtor over a real estate licensee who is not a Realtor rose four points to 64 percent this year.

Some of the consumer beliefs and opinions that improved most over the past 12 months are: “Realtors bring the latest technology to buying and selling a home" (up six points to 63 percent); “Realtors have the expertise to help sellers price their home fairly" (up four points to 64 percent); “Realtors earn their commission" (up six points to 50 percent) and “Realtors advocate private property rights of homeowners" (up 12 points to 54 percent).

Beliefs about Realtors that improved the most this year were: that they have the best network of sources to help buyers and sellers (79 percent, up six points over year ago); that they are best qualified to promote the sale of a home (73 percent, up 12 points); that they are professional (70 percent, up 13 points); that they conduct business with ethics and integrity (69 percent, up 11 points); and that they get the job done properly (68 percent, up 10 points).
Buyers who purchased a home in the past 12 months reported a jump from 39 percent to 56 percent in agents identifying themselves as Realtors, while sellers reported an even more dramatic 23 percentage point gain, from 41 percent to 64 percent, the group reported.

Realtor support for the advertising campaign continues at levels similar to those last year, according to a survey of NAR members conducted in concert with the consumer survey. Ninety-eight percent of all NAR members favor the ad program, 94 percent would like to see more advertising, and 78 percent rate the advertising effectiveness as excellent/very good (up four points). Sixty-seven percent of members cite NAR's advertising as an important reason for joining the association, according to the announcement.

Toronto Broker Meeting

Hello from the big smoke. Yesterday's broker meeting was a snoozer. The hilite of discussion was how to promote the 100th anniversary of Coldwell Banker. The head cheeses feel happy with 3 new offices in a year but really didn't look that prepared as far as broker meetings go.

Something else out of the broker meeting. John Waite with Confidence Realty in Orillia Ont pointed out that there is no home page search function on the Hit web sites. This would allow for a search of all properties. An example would be our web site at where you can search for all of Alberta's MLS listing through our site.

Going forward this functionality is crucial if you don't have it. Somebody else is picking off your clients. How do I know? Because I'm picking off clients off other agents who don't have it. When asked when this function will be available to Coldwell Banker agents in Canada, one of the head cheeses stated "We'll see". I'm not sure if this means, we'll see if we ever get it, or we'll see it when we get it. In any case I don't think it will be anytime soon.

Sara has figured out a way to do this function by doing some creative linking. Look for her to post instructions on our blog shortly.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Debunking the do-it-yourself myth

This is for everyone who asked for more information about educating sellers on the risks and perils of selling on their own. If you have a company who is strong in marketing your area with FSBO material, compare their sale values to sellers, and show them that these companies are not saving these people money. I've written this in a tongue and cheek format as if the seller is my friend, and he's my hero, so I applaud his genius. Let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas that work for you.

You go girl!

Wow you're going to sell it on your own…Congratulations! You are on the verge of being a do it yourselfer. I mean how hard can it really be? You’ve pulled your own children’s teeth, you don’t need to take them to the doctor when their sick because you’ve made a home remedy, for them and you do all your own investing and research online. You’re definitely ready. Don’t let those agents tell you how expensive it is, they’re just trying to trick you. Trust those web companies that say you can save thousands. Why trust them - just because they’re unregulated, and they say they have professional service, doesn't mean they won't mislead you does it? And who needs errors and omissions insurance anyways? Its not like you’re going to get sued are you? I mean honestly, that’s what a lot of buyers are afraid of but you’re not one of those sellers selling on their own because you have something to hide, that’s not why you’re using one of those so called pesky agents because they ask some tough questions, and besides, you are perfectly capable of handling the family nest egg. You are brave beecause that's a lot of money but you invest that much with out the aid of a financial advisor don't you?

So back to trusting these web companies… I mean they have great ads, and the costs look reasonable, don’t they? They may even help you price your home, and that’s the best idea I’ve ever heard, how do they do that? These guys really know what they are doing, don't they? So you pay them a fee before you sell, and if you pay some extra fees, you get some extra services. They’ll even recommend you to a professional or two that can assist in the transaction. This is so great it’s the next best thing to sliced bread isn't it? Sounds too good to be true, tell me more.

Forget those goofy rumours that you will sell under market value. You can afford to, right? Besides, you’re not using an agent so you can undercut the market becasue you're not paying an agent. Perfect you’re set. Oh yeah…forgot the marketing, it may take more than the sign on the lawn and their internet ad which looks great (sort of) but that’s ok, 95% of the buyers buy MLS listings so you’re only going after 5% of the buyers anyway, so that shouldn’t cost too much to market to that small group. Maybe you should pay for some of that extra marketing the nice person at the do-it-yourself place said they had available just to cement the deal.

Ok, so what now? Oh yeah, you negotiate with your kids every day, negotiating with the buyers of your house should be no problem. Knowing what to say and when to say it can’t be that big of a deal. Besides, everything they tell you will be accurate, and they won’t string you along or go for last minute concessions or anything like that. It’s probable they won’t even have an inspection or have any problems with the inspection.

Alright you’ve negotiated the offer but the price is a problem. You’re saving the commission so the buyers don’t want to pay you the commission. Split the difference - that’s a great idea, seems fair. That way, you save half the commission you would have paid one of those pesky agents. Oh yeah, you have the time you spent marketing, showing and negotiating and the learning the ropes, the costs of the marketing you paid the do-it-yourself company - you’re ahead right? Well you priced below market to get activity from buyers, the negotiating didn’t go exactly the way you wanted it to, and you have the costs and your time. What do you mean you might not have saved any money? You didn’t lose money did you? Well $1200 is better than nothing. You did lose all that family time and the extra stress, but you at least didn’t have to hire an agent. You’re my hero but I’m not as smart as you, I’ll probably have to use an agent.

Bottom line

  • There are costs to every transaction
  • The market is more complicated than just a sign and an ad
  • Negotiations can be complex and ongoing, and mistakes can be expensive
  • Your time is money
  • The buyers are looking to save the commission too
  • The more exposure you have, the more likely you’ll get more money - that is an economic reality
  • Lawsuits are a major reality for sellers, just look at all the court cases of sellers being sued for saying something or not say something. This in the end will be your undoing

Top 5 Real Estate Blogs

Thanks for reading! Because of the traffic the blog has received we are now ranked the 5th real estate related blog in North America! This ranking changes on a daily basis so I'm sure it won't last long, but I'm glad to see you're enjoying!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hot of the press! Broker meeting update #2

The broker meeting consisted of really two main parts.
  • The marketing campaign for 2006
  • Training

Honestly the rest was fluff some more meaningful than others.

The general concensus from the majority of brokers is that the current marketing fund strategy and funding is broken.

The training platform is cutting edge but the amount available is lacking to date. It will take some time to make the liabray grow but it is a must for major franchises to offer that to its brokers and agents.

It was definitely a lively meeting with the brokers looking to grow the brand and provide more value to their agents.

Maybe more on this later...Otherwise have a great night.

Broker Meeting Update #1

I'm here, sitting in the Calgary broker meeting right now. Thank God for wireless Internet or I'd have fallen asleep an hour ago. Looks like this one is going to go into overtime...we'll post our thoughts on the meeting a bit later today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Don't leave home without it!

I've just added a must read to my collection...and btw for those of you who didn't think I could read, touche. If you are serious about this business and if you are serious about learning how to do things better than take a visit to you won't regret. OH! so you want a gaurantee that you'll love it eh? (very Canadian, as this is after all on the world wide web and if we are to take over the world some day, every citizen of the world must learn it. That's why I use it so subtley.) Back to the gaurantee if you don't love it in 120 days I will personally see you get a Celine Dion autograph. That's how sure I am you'll enjoy the info here. Happy reading. btw the disclaimer that's too small to read below really says that no matter what happens you won't get an autograph.

btw check out the new website design Sara did...Great job girl...Love ya!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

HouseValues launches new national Web site

HomePages maps real estate listings, neighborhood amenities
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
By Glenn Roberts Jr.
Inman News

You think you've found your dream home online. The photo on the Web site looks great – it has the proper amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the price is right.

But how close is it to the local pizza place, the city library, the post office, a cocktail lounge or a high-performing elementary school?

Mixing mapping with detailed property, neighborhood and community data, HouseValues has launched HomePages, a Web site that is designed to drum up more business for agents while supplying consumers with new house-hunting tools.

HouseValues is well known in the industry for its lead-generation and lead-management systems for real estate agents and brokers. The HomePages site will supply a huge database of online property listings through the company's network of agents while seeking to supply a new stream of leads to these agents.

Prospective buyers and sellers can search for-sale homes by city and state, address, intersection, ZIP code, school district, and neighborhood features. Information for recently sold homes also will be accessible.

When consumers want more information related to buying or selling a home, they are connected to a HomePages agent in their market area. Agents pay to have the HomePages site personally branded when site users enter search parameters in their market area. Consumers can choose to receive e-mail updates on new property listings.

Participating agents' listings are also featured more prominently than other listings displayed in consumers' searches.

The site's maps will allow views of school district boundaries, and users can find detailed information about schools, including test scores, student-to-teacher ratio and graduation rates.
"It's built around peoples' lifestyles," said Ian Morris, HouseValues CEO. "It is totally integrated, with thousands of data points – I think this is the site that consumers want delivered on behalf of real estate agents."

Assorted map icons help users to differentiate between various points of interest, and users can customize the map displays.

Morris, during a demonstration of the HomePages mapping technology, said the site engineers enjoyed creating a flyover map display that zooms out, scrolls the map and then zooms back in when users switch their search location.

Matt Heinz, senior director of marketing for HouseValues, said that most major markets are covered by HomePages, and consumers will have access to about two-thirds of all property listings nationwide. Most property listing sources will be updated twice daily.

Other real estate industry players, too, have embraced the "more is better" approach to supplying online property listings to consumers. Help-U-Sell, RE/MAX and Cendant Corp. are among the major real estate companies that are pooling national listings to give consumers access to a larger sample of online property listings.

Visual displays of property listings – in the form of rich, interactive maps, also are catching on like wildfire on the Web. Some of the new innovations in online real estate mapping are based on the popularity of mapping platforms launched by Google, Mapquest and other online mapping specialists.

HouseValues officials point to industry research that shows increasing consumer interest in online real estate tools, including interactive maps. And there is momentum building in online advertising. The Borrell Associates research firm has said that online media should become the main advertising expenditure for the real estate industry before 2009.

Also, there is a long window of opportunity to reach real estate consumers before they enter into a transaction, say HouseValues executives.

Agents who subscribe to HomePages can purchase marketing packages that will feature lawn signs and other marketing materials carrying the HomePages logo, and each for-sale home featured by a HomePages subscriber is assigned a unique number to ease online lookup. Heinz said HomePages helps agents build their own personal brand while guiding consumers to the information they are seeking.

HomePages relies on aerial imagery snapped by airplanes rather than satellites. Morris said the end result is higher resolution map images – you can see cars in driveways and greenbelts rather than blurry neighborhood images, he said.

HouseValues has an extensive ad campaign planned to support the launch of the HomePages destination. Morris said, "We think that HomePages is going to be the killer (application) in this space."

Lisa Lundt, a real estate agent since February 2004, was among the first group of HouseValues agents to sign up for HomePages. Lundt, a Realtor for Custom Realty and Marketing in Henderson, Nev., said she has built her business around leads from HouseValues, and she was drawn to the potential for new leads from the HomePages site. "The simplicity, the clean design, the actual visual mapping – I think it is just going to be extremely appealing," she said.

Information on schools and neighborhood amenities should be useful in drawing consumers to view the HomePages site, she added. "I think they're going to be amazed by the amount of information they can get in one place."

And Maureen Morell, a Realtor for RE/MAX 200 Realty's Winter Park office in Florida who is also an early adopter of HomePages, said she hopes the new Web service will increase the number of property listings she handles while driving more buyers to work with her directly. By working with both sellers and buyers directly, she can reduce her listing commission while saving money for buyers, too, she said.

"There are a lot more buyers floating around now who are not interested in representation. I see HomePages as increases more direct buyer contact and another way to reach them," she said. Also, Morell said that any tool that can add value to her services – and drive more traffic to her listings – is important.

"Sellers these days are pretty sophisticated. The only thing they want to know is how I bring buyers to my listings," she said. "I see this as an opportunity to demonstrate more service to listings. Having a strong online presence for me is also a marketable advantage."

There are a lot of out-of-town buyers in the local real estate market, Morell also said, and HomePages provides tools for prospective buyers that can save her and her clients a lot of time.

"When they are only here for a couple of days I don't have time to drive them in my car, getting them familiar with neighborhoods. HomePages, she said, should get prospective buyers comfortable with neighborhoods even before they can visit them in person.

"They get a good feel for the neighborhood without leaving their desktop," she said.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Best Ways to Market Your Real Estate Biz

If you don't subscribe to the Inman News daily should. It is sent by email daily and includes news and articles about the real estate industry. (It's a far cry from the quality content you get in Network News, but it's still worth checking out.) Here is an article from today's newsletter that I thought was a good read:

Best ways to market your real estate biz
A little creativity goes a long way

Friday, October 07, 2005
By Bernice Ross
Inman News
Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool to spread the word about your real estate business.
According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association,, there are 11 primary ways to spread the word about your business. How many of these strategies are you using in your business?

1. Buzz marketing
According to, buzz marketing refers to "using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand." The Prudential agent who had the listing on convicted murderer Scott Peterson's house in Modesto, Calif., found a knife in the backyard. Is this knife the murder weapon that killed Lacy? This created a huge, national buzz. To create a positive buzz about your business, host a special event for people in your referral database. Rent a bus and take your guests to the most important away game for your local high school or college. Provide plenty of food, ice cream, souvenirs and other goodies. Arrange for a photographer and post the pictures to your Web site. Send out the link to everyone who attended as well as to any alumni you happen to know. Whether your team wins or loses, hopefully everyone will be "buzzing" about the great time they had.

2. Viral Marketing
Viral marketing is "creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often electronically or by e-mail." For marketing to be considered "viral," it must motivate receivers of the marketing piece to tell other people about it. For example, if you sign up for a Realtor's newsletter that has money-saving tips, e-coupons, and how-to-avoid-scams tips, and you like the newsletter so well that you encourage your friends to sign up, this is viral marketing.

3. Community Marketing
According to, community marketing is based upon "creating niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand." It also references "providing tools, content and information to support those communities." One agent created a community Web site for his homeowner's association. On the site, the association can announce upcoming events, post election information, provide warnings for neighborhood watch groups, etc. He also lets the association use his toll-free 800 number. Visitors to the community who may have real estate questions can leave a message, and he returns the call. Since he hosts the site at no charge to the association, he is now perceived as "our Realtor."

4. Grassroots Marketing
WOMMA defines grassroots marketing as "organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach." This can take a number of different forms. For example, if you hold a charity fundraiser where you go to the community to collect items for needy families, you are using a grassroots marketing approach. By being of service, you are simultaneously marketing your services.

5. Evangelist Marketing
This is the term that references working with referrals. Your goal is to develop a group of angels who will actively spread the word about the services you provide. An angel is anyone who sends you two or more referrals per year.

6. Product Seeding
Product seeding refers to placing the right product into the right hands at the right time, or providing information or samples to influential individuals. Clearly, you can't give out samples of houses. What you can do, however, is to prospect by letting people experience your level of service. For example, if property owners in your area can qualify for a property tax reduction, you can offer them information on how to lower their taxes.

7. Influencer Marketing
According to WOMMA, influencer marketing refers to having key opinion leaders talk about your services. This is slightly different from the "angel" approach referenced in evangelist marketing. A good example would be representing the mayor of your city on the sale of his or her home and receiving a strong testimonial from them about how well you handled the transaction.

8. Cause Marketing
Many real estate agents are actively involved in supporting Habitat for Humanity, women's shelters, medical research, and a host of other important causes. Being involved in a cause is an important way to give back to your community. It also attracts higher quality of clients as well.

9. Conversation Creation
In the fall of 2005, the Inventables began distributing "squishy magnets." These magnets feel like a piece of foam rubber and can be used to close doors without the doors slamming. Distributing these to your geographical farm or on your open houses will make a great conversation starter. According to WOMMA, you can stimulate conversation creation through fun advertising, e-mails, catch phrases, entertainment or promotions.

10. Referral programs
Many agents use the term "referral program" to reference that they ask people to refer leads to them. A full-blown referral program does more than just asking for leads. Instead, it uses a systematic approach that allows satisfied customers to refer their friends. The best programs usually offer some sort of reward for participating in the program. For example, if you contribute $20 to a client's favorite charity when they make a referral to you, they are much more likely to send you business than if you did not.

11. Blogging
Blogs are one of the hottest trends for the real estate industry. A blog is a series of quick observations that the blogger posts to a Web site. The primary goal of blogging is to share fun and useful information with the blogger's readers. For a great example, See Brad Inman's blog at

Want to know more? See next week's column, "Unleashing the Power of Testimonials."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Vancouver Island Manager Needed

Selling/Managing Broker wanted for Coldwell Banker Comox Valley office. This is a great opportunity to live in a year round playground and work in one of B.C.'s fastest growing communities. Please reply with your enquiries to

Monday, October 03, 2005

MLX Change & MLX Professional Sold!

Many of us use MLX change and or professional on a daily basis. We thought this article in yesterdays National Post may be of interest to you.